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Bullet train: rebuilding the PR first

Published May 08, 2013 05:06am


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NAWAZ Sharif, while addressing an election rally in Multan on May 3, promised, inter alia, that if his party was voted to power in the coming elections and he became the prime minister, he would run a bullet train from Peshawar to Karachi which would pass through Multan.

He elaborated the new train would take passengers from Peshawar to Karachi only in seven hours. The project would cost anywhere between $7 billion to $10 billion.

Nawaz Sharif did not talk about how that kind of money would be arranged because it is a mundane matter which is not supposed to be discussed in an election rally.

Those of us who have witnessed Pakistan Railways’ decline, both in terms of its scope of coverage and performance, during the last three decades would be tempted to laugh at the promise made by Nawaz Sharif.

They would look askance at his promise of running the bullet train and say that how can the Pakistan Railways, which has lost the ability to run even slow-moving passenger trains, can be enabled in a matter of five years (assuming that the PML-N’s tenure lasts full term ) to run a bullet train from Peshawar to Karachi.

They would draw attention that the bullet train project involves laying an entirely new two-line railway track as it runs at a speed of over 220km an hour and the existing railway track cannot be used for this purpose.

They would argue that an organisation that has added virtually nothing to the stock of rail tracks that it inherited in August 1947 cannot be expected to lay a new high quality rail track for the promised bullet train.

And, finally, to clinch the argument that the proposed project is virtually impossible to implement, these doubters would point out Pakistan’s precarious financial condition.

Those who view Nawaz Sharif’s promise sceptically should hold on. The promise of running a bullet train can be fulfilled in spite of the aforementioned difficulties.

Essentially, implementing the bullet train project would only require the government to have a warped sense of priorities and divert the country’s scarce resources toward this project.

The governments that have ruled us have been known for their warped sense of priorities. For how else can we explain the following facts? We are a nuclear power but residents of none of our cities, not to mention the people living in rural areas, have access to clean drinking water.

Our social indices are among the lowest in the world but our elite live in obscene luxury. We have flyovers, underpasses and motorways but none of our cities has a public transport system which can measure up to public transport systems in cities of other countries in the world having comparable per capita income.

Our effective literacy rate is among the lowest and our population growth rate among the highest in the world but we tend to assume the posture suitable for a superpower. We are using CNG for running vehicles and also making tall claims for employing renewable sources of energy for meeting our power needs but it took us almost half a century to find out that we have massive coal reserves in Thar.I may point out that over 60 per cent of electricity in the world still comes from coal, but in Pakistan hardly any electricity is generated from this source.

What I have stated above reflects a warped sense of priorities fixed by different governments that have ruled us over the period.

So, if the PML-N government comes to power as a result of the coming elections, it should be possible, if it so willed, to run a bullet train from Peshawar to Karachi.

Whether the new government should do so is another matter. I would be happy if the promise of the bullet train remained unfulfilled and resources could be diverted to resuscitate Pakistan Railways’ relatively slow passenger trains and goods trains of yore.



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Comments (24) Closed

Husain Jan May 08, 2013 05:52am
Yes the Railways affairs need to be looked into first, no doubt about it. Bullet train would be welcomed but first the railways. Not only intercity routes but the local train service also should be restarted to ease the traffic load on heavily congested roads of Karachi and other big cities.
malole May 08, 2013 05:56am
Agree with the author. The need of time is to resucitate the dying PR and then think about bullet train.
Abdul Malik May 08, 2013 06:13am
For sure I had a real good laugh when Nawaz Sharif promised bullet train from Peshawar to Karachi in 5 years. PR does not even have money to buy diesel for their exited fleet of rickety old engines, even the thought of bullet train generates laughter.
Sohail Malik May 08, 2013 07:30am
well said Khalid! These are lolly pop candies shown to masses to achieve benefits. Just look at them!! shameless as before with a persistent short term vision! He surely intends to keep issues like education,justice, inflation,law and order on his Bullet Train track......!!!! God help us take care of this beautiful country by our selves!
Khota May 08, 2013 07:45am
One of the most ludicrous of statements, made in this article is to produce power form coal, Most of the world is trying to move away form coal, as it is the most pollution producing source of power. While going back in technology, why stop at coal, why not use lanterns to produce light.
ROHIT PANDEY May 09, 2013 01:27am
And can Pakistani passengers afford to buy tickets to ride them? Or,will the passengers too will be foreigners?
saqib May 08, 2013 09:40am
I live in America, and here they could not build a single high speed corridor, how would nation like Pakistan with 93% illiterates voting for people like Nawaz and Zardari build a bullet train?
Salman Cheema May 08, 2013 10:01am
The 7 to 10 billion dollars to build the bullet train will come from donor USA,China and Saudi Arabia.
Riaz Ahmad May 09, 2013 12:12am
Pakistan needs affordable rail travel for the common man, not luxury trains for the rich.
AJ May 08, 2013 11:16am
Who told you that Khota? Please try to look in to the break up for the most modern countries and you will find all of them producing bulk of their electricity from coal. One should not forget that quality of Thar coal is very poor and they are still not sure if digging it out will be financially viable.
hyderphd74 May 08, 2013 11:53pm
Sure, Mr. AJ. A large number of countries do produce electricity by coal, but they take extra ordinary steps to remove the particulates and other harmful pollutants. Will we do that? Coal is by far the most pollutant generating fuel there is among all the energy generating fuels followed by oil then gas. If you do not believe me then feel free to Google and you will see the list. Coal not only produces harmful particulates that we breath but also carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. According to the Electronic Universe Project, "Materials on the low end of the energy scale such as wood and charcoal create the most pollution".
hyderphd74 May 08, 2013 11:37pm
As another charity?
Ahmed May 08, 2013 01:03pm
The reason they dont have bullet trains in the US is the automobile industry lobby which has been opposing public transport projects for decades. So, while there is a vast number of things people in Pakistan could learn from the US, not building public transport is not one of them.
MD May 08, 2013 01:35pm
If that is the case, why can't we use that donation to feed the poor, improve our infra structure of electricity, clean water and transport. All this can be done with that kind of money, if the sharif's fore-go their comisssion and kickbacks
maddy May 08, 2013 01:56pm
make the bullet train and then run it on what type of energy? Water or Air? people of pak already have enough food and shelter...all they need is a bullet train.
Bashir May 08, 2013 01:59pm
They will build bullet trains on the ruins of PR just as they made Danish schools . Whereas hundreds of ghost schools have no buildings, no teachers. Just as they built metro bus system at a cost of 70 billions whereas our hospitals have no medicines, no medical eqpts, no beds for patients. Long live Raiwind palaces
Avtar May 08, 2013 02:03pm
Why would the taxpayers of USA, China, And Saudi Arabia provide money to Pakistan for this project? What kind of return would they expect? It is more so when only 4% of Pakistanis, mainly civil servants and large company bureaucrats, pay taxes.
Tansar May 08, 2013 02:54pm
what can be funnier than this? How low can someone go to come in power. Araay bhai, fix the current Railway system which is on the brink of collapsing.. Bullet train chalaye ga..
SAL May 08, 2013 03:01pm
This is called 'Election Promise'. It is not possible n Pakistan. If Nawaz Shariff pocket the commission as usual then what product will one get.
sal May 08, 2013 03:16pm
It could be got if the Military let some out. But they probably want to put a satellite in space so nevermind.
Zack Khan May 08, 2013 04:25pm
If Nawaz Sharif gets re-elected I won't be surprised, I'll be one sad dude.
ali ahmed May 08, 2013 04:51pm
A country which can not run simple leader dreaming of running bullet train...he has no brain
Ammar May 08, 2013 06:45pm
This article is horribly written. What is this? 5th grade journalism from an urdu-public school?
Mushtaq Ahmed May 08, 2013 09:13pm
Nawaz Sharif is a small town businessman whose interest lies in personal profit. Bullet train will fetch him kickback in billions on fast track.